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Everquest And Video Game Addiction

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Children and adults alike flock by the thousands to pick up and take home the latest video games. These days there are hundreds of video game titles to choose from on many different platforms so one is sure to find one that suits them. This trend has spawned an enormous economic force both in the United States and worldwide. According to, video game sales were actually down in 2004 to $9.9 billion from $10 billion in 2003 in the United States alone (Lee). Perhaps more importantly is that this has produced a cultural trend as well. As more and more children define their lives through video games more and more children are becoming adults who also define their lives through video games. This is a growing problem in this country that entertainment is starting to take over the lives of more and more people. This is not necessarily to the fault of any single factor but a combination of many. The increasing complexity and realism of games has much to do with it. EverQuest is such a stimulating simulation in that many people prefer the 'EverQuest World' to the real one. Also to blame are the parents who choose to allow this 'electronic babysitter' into their homes more and more often. Perhaps the most to blame is the interactive environment some games create. That is, games of the MMORPG (massively-multiplayer online role-playing game) class. The most notorious and arguably the best game of this genre is EverQuest. It has single-handedly brought to national attention the effects of video game addiction (VGA). Cultural values deemed essential to a fulfilled life are cast aside in lieu of a virtual reality and steps need to be taken to recover those affected or prevent it altogether. Common, important, and exciting portions of life like having a job, a family, friends and a love life come second to video games. Once the condition of VGA is identified, the support of friends, family or support groups are crucial in reversing it.

There are a number of logical questions to ask at this point. Perhaps most pertinent is 'who is at risk and why?' In other words, who are those that one should look for symptoms of VGA? According to those that have existing self-esteem problems are especially at risk (Cyberdependence). These individuals already have difficulty in social settings and can therefore find more comfort in an online setting. The makers of EverQuest and games like it have removed the need to physically interact with people to carry on a conversation in a game environment. This effectively removes much of the anxiety of communicating. There are tens of thousands of players on at any given time which allows for ample 'human' interaction. also cites other contributing factors as depression, loneliness, or high stress. They seek a way to somehow disconnect with these problems in reality and video games provide that (Cyberdependence).

Even though there are those that are at more risk than others video games harbor ingredients to pull anyone into their grip. notes that the most basic reinforcing factor is that one is able to experience fantasies not possible in reality. The player can assume a God-like position while being at the center of the universe and wield unnatural power. Also, most video games are designed around a basic problem-solving environment. This provides a certain satisfaction when one solves these problems. Probably most prevalent and relevant is the fact that there is often no 'end' to MMORPG games. This is especially true for EverQuest. It is arguably one of its most attractive qualities. The player can play almost endlessly and still have a different experience every time. In fact, in EverQuest, whenever your character 'dies' it is necessary for you to spend up to two hours to recover it's 'corpse' in order to keep the character without losing all your progress on it. This virtually forces the player to spend additional time playing which leads to even more reinforcement. states that the player often begins to reason that they have spent this much time playing so there is no sense in quitting now and throwing it all away (Cyberdependence). It is the sheer amount of playtime that leads to many of VGA's symptoms.

VGA's physical and psychological symptoms are often brought about by staying stationary for extended periods of time. Dr. Maressa Hecht Orzack Ph.D, a licensed clinical psychologist, has treated addictive behaviors at McLean Hospital, where she is founder and coordinator of the Computer Addiction Service. She states that sitting in the same position for long periods of time causes back aches and discomfort. Also, maintaining the same hand position while playing is directly linked to causing carpal tunnel syndrome. Dry eyes and headaches also ensue from staring into the computer screen. Probably the most noticeable symptoms are eating, sleeping, social, and hygiene irregularities. Dr. Orzack also points out that the video game addict often neglects their friends and family to the point of alienation. It is not uncommon for the addict to log on at 9 PM and suddenly realize that it is dawn before they log off. Tending to personal hygiene and having meals becomes more and more rare. What may make these symptoms hard to tie together is the fact that a suspected addict often lies about the amount of time they spend playing games (Orzack).

While many symptoms of VGA can be seen in nearly every case of it there are of course some extreme cases. While one may logically predict some of the problems that VGA could bring about it is unlikely that anyone would guess the extreme problems that could arise. VGA has been known to be the direct cause of separation and/or divorce in many couples. It has caused psychological breakdowns and detachment from reality. It has even caused suicide and accidental death.

The ever-increasing ranks of the group 'EverQuest Widows' on Yahoo! Groups tells a story of its own. As of March of 2006 there are over 6600 members. Members of this group console one another as they post about their own battles with VGA. These are tales of those that are affected indirectly by VGA and even some addicts looking for help. Through this group anyone with internet access can gain some insight into VGA.

An especially serious case is one told by Jay Parker, co-founder of Internet/Computer Game Addiction Services in Richmond, regarding one of his clients. He was a college senior who had bought EverQuest. Over the course of the next few weeks he started missing class more and more often. Within 6 weeks he had dropped out of school altogether and played the game for extremely long periods of time. During one such session he played for over 36 hours straight. He only



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